Comments on the death of Osama bin Laden have surprised me, and I would like to summarize some thoughts in what I hope will be my final blog on the subject. Most reactions have been positive for both the end result and the process by which he died. There seems to be a general sense of good riddance, and satisfaction if not joy. Even lawyers expressed doubts about the value of a long, dragged-out court case and seem to feel that the final result was pragmatically sound and justified the means.
Following this reasoning, I quickly note that the prudent reaction of President Obama in his somber announcement to the American people and visit to New York quickly changed tone with his speeches to troops in Kentucky and his presentation to a fund-raiser in Texas that had all the elements of triumphalism on the campaign trail. The emotional impact of this "victory" was too much for the President to ignore. Vengeance, "justice," political mileage were all in the mix. A very well known Geneva magistrate even gave me a political argument similar to the one used by Fawn Hall, the secretary to Lt. Colonel Oliver North, when during her testimony about destroying documents in the Iran-Contra Affair she said, "Sometimes you have to go above the law".
The legal argument about intervening in a foreign country with dubious authorization or the order to execute seems to have little traction. Two special experts of the United Nations are investigating, but given that the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it "a watershed moment" in the fight against global terrorism and stated that "justice has been done," one would not expect movement here except from some quibbling international lawyers. Kenneth Roth, Head of Human Rights Watch, has raised some questions, but, as another important Geneva lawyer expressed to me, "Big powers will do what they do".
Finally, conspiracy theorists are having a field day. For those who are still not convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald shot John Kennedy, or that the planes really caused the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, or that a plane actually landed in the Pentagon, a new Pandora's Box has been open. And no videos of bin Laden playing with a tv will put this to rest.
But, as I said above, I do hope that this will be my last blog on the subject.
May 16, 2011